Some Thoughts About Clickbaiting

"Clickbaiting" is a verb, right?  This week, for the first time in the history of my blog, I used some hardcore clickbait for attention writing a post I titled, "Why Does Mark Zuckerberg Hate Kids with Cancer?"  For those of you who are in the dark, clickbait is defined as, "(on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page."

IT WORKED.

Just as I was hoping it would, that preposterous title attracted a lot of attention, most of it warm and supportive, some of it downright mean and ugly.  It didn't go viral, as I had dared to dream it might, but it did generate significantly more play and traction than a typical post would.  Most importantly, in the immediate 36 hours after it was posted, over $3,500 in donations rolled in to St. Baldrick's in support of research for pediatric cancer.

Having been an undergrad psych major, those dollars right there are what is called "negative reinforcement."  The other numbers were pretty intoxicating, too. Typical status updates linking to our St. Baldrick's event were generating a reach of between 300-500 people out of 28K subscribers.  My clickbait post had a reach of just under 125K people.  It also brought me over 160 new page followers, though, to be fair, I lost a few, too (eleven).  I engaged in what I myself consider to be negative behavior, and yet, was rewarded for it.  That makes it much more likely for me to engage in that same type of negative behavior again.  Except, I won't.  Clickbait is not cool, despite the fact that it works.

My post was born out of a place of fatigue and frustration, not childish entitlement, as a few gals accused me of.  Zuckerberg treats my blog page like a business, despite it not being a business.  I don't sell ads, I don't have any sponsored content.  Ever.  I don't financially gain, in any way, from having a blog Facebook page.  I never have and I doubt I ever will.  I simply don't have the "dynamo" factor that some of my blogging colleagues do.  I salute them, but they are not me.

The top image is an ad for Facebook that, ironically, appeared on top of my page the day I posted my clickbait.  As it shows, Facebook clearly thinks of MTM as a business needing and wanting to advertise.  Nope.  Wrong on both counts.  On the lower image, you can see just one exchange.  Sadly, I lost my cool with this gal and took her bait.  I'm not proud of that.  She went on to criticize me further and personally mock my grief, then she herself deleted the exchange.  Good riddance!

The top image is an ad for Facebook that, ironically, appeared on top of my page the day I posted my clickbait. As it shows, Facebook clearly thinks of MTM as a business needing and wanting to advertise. Nope. Wrong on both counts. On the lower image, you can see just one exchange. Sadly, I lost my cool with this gal and took her bait. I'm not proud of that. She went on to criticize me further and personally mock my grief, then she herself deleted the exchange. Good riddance!

And, to be clear, it makes me sad and disheartened and cynical to know that I could have more readers any time I wanted, just by playing a game that Zuckerberg himself encourages.  I choose not to because it's not my jam.  I grew up hearing my father say, "Be the bigger person" in response to times you have been wronged or challenged.  I try.  Most days I succeed, some days I fail.

While I am not ashamed of my clickbait post, it's not something I would ever rely on.  I value you readers too damn much for that.  So, rest assured, those of you who have been with me for more than a post or two, more clickbait is not on my horizon.

That said, it is very clear to me by the level of outreach from other cancer bloggers, cancer fundraisers, and parents of children who run support pages on Facebook that there is a universal feeling of taking a hit in numbers and exposure on Facebook in recent months.  A child with cancer using Facebook to notify friends and family is not a business, though the Facebook algorithms treat that child as a for profit tycoon, asking him or her to pay for supporters to see status updates.

I have some sort of social justice gene embedded deep in my DNA that will always make me root for the underdog.  If Zuckerberg has a literal army of programmers at his beck and call, which he does, the man should be able to distinguish between for profit businesses, fundraising campaigns, bloggers, and support pages for people with illnesses.  It's sort of like that age old question, "Why can we send people to the moon, but not make pantyhose that don't run?"  The answer is the same for both, because business.

And to those of you who disagreed with my post, I hear ya.  And, to a certain extent, I don't disagree, which, I think, was apparent in my original post.  The fact that my numbers and donated dollars rose exponentially is only evidence of the reality that clickbait works, though, and with the prospect of raising $3,500K for pediatric cancer research, well, yes, I would do it all over again.

What I won't tolerate or stand for, though, are the cabal of mean girls that drop down from the sky to mock me personally, mock my grief, call me names like childish, selfish, entitled, "on the rag," narcissistic, whiny, self-involved, and other personal attacks.  And how is attacking me different than me attacking Zuck?  Very different, for a few reasons:  1) Zuck will never see my post; 2) I clearly state in my post how and why I utilized clickbait in my title -- to criticize his business practice.

When a commenter comes to my page, its a pretty clear bet that I see everything that is posted, and that it is intended for me, personally, to see it.  Secondly, referring to a grieving mother trying to advocate for more funds for research as whiny, entitled, or a cry baby is just beyond my comprehension.  To lash out at me and suggest that I am hurting Zuckerberg's feelings is just plain silly.

Grateful thanks to those of you who understand what I do and why I do it, even if you don't always agree with the how.  I promise not to abuse your trust and make clickbait part of my regular blogging repertoire.  Even us earnest bloggers have moments of weakness.  Friday's clickbait was one of mine.  xox, MTM

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